I felt horrible writing this. Truly, questioning-my-sanity-whilst-looking-at-myself-in-the-mirror disgust. And reading on you'll see why.
Enjoy (steal this and die!)
The town was set in the middle of a dip, in the middle of a vast green dale, surrounded by hedgerows and woods that seemed to stretch for eternity. Winding roads weaved between hills and under small stone bridges, and between the tall rows of ageing trees that protected much of the town from the winds that ravaged most of the surrounding areas. A silvery river ran through it, slithering under bridges and through pipes, irrigating fields and supplying the town with a good supply of fresh water. Even for a town in the 21st Century, the people were still very dependent on the river for a lot of income, from fishing to boat tours in summer. Small pubs and restaurants lined the riverbanks, providing the populace with work even in these hard times. It was little wonder that the people of Gallingford were well-known for their hospitality.
The town itself was old-fashioned, many of the buildings harking back to architecture at least four-hundred years out of date. A mix of Tudor bricks-and-timber, as well as a heavy Victorian influence on some of the buildings in the centre of Gallingford, made one feel as though they had taken a leap back in time to an age of top-hats and afternoon teas. The disused mill and engineering workshop located at opposite ends of the city did not help this, but there was an undeniable charm about the town that filled many people with the desire to live there their whole lives. And indeed many had.
A Land-Rover peered over the ridge that overlooked Gallingford, passing under the railway bridge, and stopping just before the slope that would carry it into the centre of the town. The driver of the car stepped out of the vehicle. He was a tall man, with dark hair, and the build of a man who’d spent much of his life in the country. He was young too, looking every inch the post-graduate. Or at least that’s what his outside appearance said. However, post-graduate wasn’t entirely accurate as a title. He leant on the side of his car, gazing at the town below. The sun behind him cast beams of light over the fields, through the woods, over streams and settling on the old buildings, the chops, pubs, cottages, church and relics of the industrial revolution. It made him sigh with nostalgia, as he breathed in a lungful of the fresh country air. How he had missed it.
He got back in, and the car carried on, running between stone walls and wire fences, through the seemingly endless sea of green farmland. Men, machines and animals were at work, tilling the land or grazing the tall grass. As he drove, he noticed herds of horses galloping from one end of the field to the other, racing each other, their hooves pounding the earth and their manes flowing like fire as they thundered along. Wildflowers grew at the roadside, and through the windscreen, he could make out the forms of small brown rabbits, dashing into the hedgerows to escape the metal beast that was roaring along the road.
He was soon in the town. He recognised the old buildings instantly, and seemed to welcome him home like old friends. He recognised the old woman who ran the tea-shop, serving customers sitting under shades outside. He saw the retired Army colonel, a devoted vintage car enthusiast, cruising around in a Rolls Royce from the 1930s. The landlord from his former watering-hole, walking his dog beside the church. Plenty of new faces, plenty of old. He passed the school, where the kids were running around screaming, relishing their temporary freedom from the labour of classroom activities. And there was the restaurant he’d worked a during his college years. Well, it had closed down since then, and become a barbers shop instead. Still, he could remember the sweet feeling of gazing at his monthly paycheque and knowing that he’d earned every penny. Such feelings had been left behind since he’d gone, but now he was back, all these emotions returned in a surge of positive feeling.
His journey back had been unannounced. He’d wanted to keep it that way. Let his return be a surprise. That was considering he’d stick around long enough. He had many things to do now. But he’d try.
He turned a corner and headed past the mill on the north side of the town. His destination was not in the town itself, but rather the farm nestled behind the woods closest to the mill. His childhood home. Growing up on a farm, with a busy yet loving family, had taught him many valuable things. The importance of honesty, hard work, and community. A sanctuary of benevolence, isolated from much of society, and yet free of the struggles of the outside world. Everything was self-sufficient and simple. They never had much, but they were never short either. It was here, growing up in the middle of this beautiful land that he’d developed his taste for adventure, longing to see beyond the fences his father and brothers were constantly building and rebuilding. Hence, moving away had seemed like a good idea. But he’d missed it too much. He’d grown up in a place where everyone knew each other, and to leave, he realised, had been something of a mistake. He’d needed more time to prepare. But still he’d gone. And now, as he slipped the car into upper-gear for the climb upwards, he wondered, had it been worth it? No, was the only possible answer. But he was back now. A chance to start again. There were just a few things he had to take care of first.
As he turned a corner he could see the farmhouse, sat between a warehouse and a tall wooden barn. He could make out the slate roof, the stone walls, and the twin chimneys that had gone black with age. Roses grew up the door, and ivy was crawling up the front wall like some form of rash. The farms haulage machines were sat under a corrugated steel shed. He’d learned to drive on these as a teenager, and it had served him well. A few stray chickens were pecking and scratching around the yard, seemingly oblivious to the approaching vehicle, and a gold and black rooster was crowing from on top of an oil barrel. The rest of the animals would all be out, he realised, and perhaps that was best, given the circumstances. But being back here brought memories and an ever increasing sense of familiarity back to him. And as he brought the car to a stop and opened the door, he couldn’t help think, why had he left in the first place? His time outside had been hard, too hard for him to remain. Coming back, walking through the gate and along the stone path that led to the front of the house, made him realise the good he’d left behind. A job, a family, close friends, and a promising if unglamorous future. And now, he was ready to come back. Back to the life he knew deep down, he never should have left.
Reaching the front door, he sighed before knocking. He was instantly greeted with a volley of loud barking from inside, and could hear the sounds of someone inside trying to hush the dogs as they struggled to find the keys. He could feel his heart beating faster and faster now as he heard footsteps, and the rattling of metal as whoever was inside fumbled with the lock. And then the door opened, and he was greeted by the face of his father, a face looking surprised, then overjoyed, then fearful as the man raised a gun to his father’s forehead and fired once, twice, three times, until the bullets ran out and blood soaked the hallway carpet. The young man turned to go, ignoring the barks of the thankfully restrained dogs as he headed back to his car and drove away.